So… I was planning to post this before the World Series ended, but Detroit just didn’t have any stamina, did they? Let’s go, Giants! (The Beloved Sisters are Oakland A’s fans, but San Francisco is very nearby.)
“Oh, but you write a Jane Austen blog” they say. “That must be about tea and flowers. What does Jane Austen have to do with baseball?”
Ha! Sister and brother Janeites, remember that a Jane Austen book contains the very first reference to baseball in the OED itself!
Cue excerpt from Northanger Abbey, Chapter 1. Jane’s setting up Catherine Morland as someone you would never have picked to be a Gothic heroine, because she’s so ordinary.
…it was not very wonderful* that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, base ball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books—or at least to books of information—for, provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all.
*Wonderful here means “full of wonder,” i.e. surprising.
Here is a Jane Austen heroine to-be not just watching baseball, but actually playing it! (Let’s put her up against the zombies…) Now, Catherine Morland goes on to learn to read Gothic novels and sigh artistically, and famously “curl her hair and long for balls,” the dancing kind, and not cricket or baseballs.
Jane Austen has a lot of affection for Catherine, and though she also likes Gothic novels, Northanger Abbey is a straight-up lesson in the folly of considering them a model for life. It contrasts the simple health and sanity of the Morlands with other peoples’ deceptions, follies, and evils.
So I’m going out on a limb and saying that Jane Austen also loved cricket, horseback-riding, books that are all story and no reflection, and of course baseball!
And I think we can totally see her at work when Miss Osborne bakes cakes for every A’s playoff game, when Miss Ball tweets about Josh Reddick’s hair, and when Mrs. Fitzpatrick calmly eats baseball cake and cheers when she remembers.
I think she would understand and laugh at us, I hope with affection. And I think she’d find the World Series pretty funny too. Pity we’ll never know…
The great ebook wars started innocently enough in June, 2012. A single alert blogger, Philip Howard, noticed that the Barnes & Noble version of War and Peace had erased all instances of the word Kindle—an competitor at the time—with their own brand-name, Nook. (“It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern….”) One or two blogs picked it up, the people lol’ed, case closed.
An simple mistake with search-and-replace, but it started people thinking. . . hackers had already inserted zombies into Pride and Prejudice in the careless spirit of the 2000s, so why not make some money by selling product placement in the books? Anyone can publish e-versions of books no longer in copyright. Starbucks was first on the bandwagon in late 2012, with their special Frappuccino Editions of the classics (Frappuccino was a curious coffee-like drink). These editions merely replaced all coffee and tea, coffeehouses and tea shops in the classics, with Starbucks. The changes to the coffee shop scene in Persuasion did cause some comment on the primitive “social networks” of the time, but marketers and companies eagerly lined up to have their products inserted in some edition, any edition of a classic, and by 2015 generic ebooks were becoming rare and collectible.
The sudden rebirth of the bowdlerizers, and their tireless campaign to find and replace smut where ordinary dirty-minded citizens couldn’t even see it, spun off into its own crusade. Of course, the main target in Austen was “intercourse.” The mere thought of Emma and Miss Bates having “a regular and steady intercourse” caused President Sarah Palin to mandate bowdlerized versions of all classics in 2020.
The fall of America into chaos, the rise of the underground movement for Pure Classics, and the petty in-fighting of the various Jane factions (Austen, Eyre, Bennet, and Cobb), need not be gone into. Every schoolchild knows that in 2072, the Pure Classics broke away from the Altered Versions, and the two empires have been fighting ever since. It has been a long and terrible history. But on this, the 1,000th anniversary of the first shot of this massive war, let us stop and remember that it need never have happened.
. . .
Ok, so this could also be called Leo Tolstoy Hates Your Search-and-Replace. But, you know, once you start down the Dark Side, forever will it guide your destiny! So, beware!
O readers, there has been a specter looming on the edge of Austen life. Something dark. Something chilling. Something so terrible as to render us speechless thus far. And I’m here to tell that it is REAL. And we’re going to have to talk about it.
I’m speaking, of course, of the shadow of a third Bridget Jones movie.
Let me first say: I ADORE the original Bridget Jones’s Diary (film more so than novel). It strikes me as one of a few modern romantic comedies that is both actually romantic and actually a comedy; I own it, yet also watch it on TBS at all possible junctures; desert island, blah blah blah. I also really love Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (novel MUCH more so than terrible film)–it’s ridiculous (Thai prison?) but also rather sweet (The Velveteen Rabbit analogy). So let’s establish that I’m no hater. I’m not gonna hate! I just want things to be good.
And, you guys, YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS.
Sure, I mean, we haven’t seen Renee Zellweger OR Hugh Grant in awhile, and Hollywood abhors a career break. But there are other ways! (Surely there are other ways.) Renee, find an occasion to smile in such a way that we can see your teeth! Hugh, I’m not actually clear on why your celebrity stock has fallen so precipitously, but find a reputable project and do it! No more of this “Sarah Jessica Parker and I are almost divorced and stuck in the American West” nonsense. We know you can do better, and we’re sure some indie director would love to have you on the rolls. Now self-deprecate your way back into our hearts, will you?
And, well, Colin, we know you probably just didn’t want to be the guy holding up the entire production…but you have an Oscar now. You can BE the guy holding up the entire production, and we will totally understand! You are now allowed to exercise your common sense! (On the other hand, the only thing worse than Bridget Jones 3 is Bridget Jones 3 without the charmifying presence of Mark Darcy and his reindeer jumpers. So, actually, forget I said anything.)
My greatest fear, here, is that a third movie will include yet another takeoff of one of the greatest scenes in all of filmdom–by which I mean the street fight(…ish) between Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy, or Hugh Grant and Colin Firth flailing hilariously at each other to the beat of The Weathergirls’ “It’s Raining Men.” The creators of Edge of Reason clearly understood the great comic value of the original scene and tried to re-create it, mostly unsuccessfully, in a fountain. I’m not sure this world can handle another sad iteration.
Of course, it’s entirely (or at least vaguely) possible that Bridget Jones 3 (I just can’t call it BJ3) might not be the worst thing ever. Among the deep dark sea of buzz about it, there are two tiny pinholes of light: 1) The movie may not be the product of a room full of middle-aged male execs pulling ideas out of the air and looking to salvage a series (“I’ve got it! Bridget gets a pet chimp! Ladies love chimps, right?”). Or, it may not totally be that. Helen Fielding is apparently typing out a third novel as we speak, which one hopes is going straight from her hard drive to the screenwriter’s/producers’ brains. The timing of this seems suspect, but if Aaron Sorkin can do it and win and Oscar, who are we to judge? Also: 2) Paul Feig, director of of Bridesmaids/Freaks and Geeks/The Office fame, is apparently in talks to direct. Now THAT, might be an actual upside. The man knows both cringe-inducing comedy and the heart behind it, and might be able to unbreak the hearts of Bridget fans everywhere.
We can only hope.
It doesn’t seem wise or mentally economical to shine any extra light on this nonsense, except to say, suuuuuure. You just keep thinking your big manly thoughts with your big manly brain, and we’ll just sit over here with our narrow, sentimental view of the world and eat ice cream from the carton and swoon over how smart you are. Because there’s nothing we women love more than condescension; also, I hope some sentimental lady somewhere takes the opportunity to kick you in a place that I’ve recently heard called “soft and uncomfortable.” That should show you a narrow view of the world.
…in a civilized sort of way.
Readers, today I find myself in need of a good insult. To use, not to receive. And not to use out loud, of course—moi? More like to bandy about in my head as I alternately fume in my car and worry about an impending (though mercifully brief) conflict with a difficult person. In this situation, I suspect two things: first, that Jane has provided us all with a wealth of subtly cutting remarks sprinkled throughout her canon, and second, that you folks are imminently qualified to point them all out to me.
So, Austenites (can I call you Austenaciousites?), tell me: what’s your favorite Jane-ian insult, and who delivers it?
Let’s hear it, you lily-livered bits of leftover scone!
(See? This is why I need your help.)
For those of you who haven’t already seen it, some LA Mormon girls have made a hilarious and so far fake trailer for Jane Austen’s Fight Club.
Now this is deeply satisfying; I don’t deny it. Everyone wants to see proper young ladies kick ass. Time period is not important, but the more proper, the more ass they obviously have to kick. (See: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, obviously Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Kill Bill – does she count as proper? – and so on and so on.) I’m tempted, naturally, to make a list of other movies Jane Austen could be inserted into, for copyright-ambiguous fun and profit. The Matrix: Jane Austen Reloaded springs to mind.
What about Little Miss Sunshine Bennet? In this quirky romp, the Bennet family drives their falling-apart carriage from Hertfordshire all the way to London just so Mary can compete in a talent competition. Lydia isn’t talking because she wants to join the military [wink wink nudge nudge], and Mr. Collins dies en route, the dirty old man. I think it should do well.
Or, in Eleanor and Marianne’s Excellent Adventure, the two bodacious sisters set out on a time-traveling quest to find sweet rhyme and pure reason, which will save the future universe from annihilation by evil spamlords. Along the way, they pick up a fun set of characters, including Lady Gaga, Stephen Hawking, and Stephen Colbert, all of whom embarrass them immensely. Quite by accident, they do find true love and happiness. Barack Obama advises a gathering at Sir John Middleton’s to be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!
All of this is very jolly, but I would just like to point something out here. Readers, has or has not Austenacious had a Jane Austen Fight Club column for almost a year now?! Are we owed royalties on this video? Our legal team better get busy!
In the meantime, perhaps our loyal readers could make trailers for our other columns. What Would Jane Do? is clearly a sickeningly sweet romance in which a cynical advice columnist is saved by a long-lost love (probably by falling down a hill). Jane Austen Hates You is probably an indie comedy, possibly about YouTube, MySpace, and all them there Social Networking Sites, hopefully starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Ask Mrs. Fitzpatrick sounds like an Agatha Christie to me, and Quote Unquote is clearly the new Bond movie.
Readers, are you game? What other movies mesh well with Austen novels? Or mesh so terribly badly they just have to go?
P.S. Jane Austen’s Army of Darkness! Just saying. . .
Readers, there is a magical corner of this here World Wide Web—a place where the true potential of the hive mind is unleashed upon the general public, and the free flow of information runs a course suspiciously close to that of the letter u as a pronoun. That indescribable corner is Yahoo! Answers, a place for homework avoiders and people who have no access to either a reference librarian or a sensitive, non-professional conversation partner. Add Jane’s name to the mix, and watch the magic happen: along with legitimate questions about the Austen canon and the appropriate age at which to approach it, the spectrum of awesome, revealing, and/or nonsensical questions can only be hinted at in a single blog post. We’ve picked out a few of our favorites for your reading pleasure, and added responses of our own—and we apologize in advance if any of these are yours. We just like you so much, is all.
In the interest of—ahem—journalistic integrity, all question titles are reproduced as typed.
Well, for one, she’ll give you pretentious cooties with her meager writing style.
(You keep using that word! I do not think it means what you think it means.)
If you aren’t one of the X-Men, like the original responder, you’ll have to seek out some of that mid-evil literature for practice. Have standards: low-evil’s for weenies; high-evil’s too much. Trust us.
No. Question your sexuality immediately.
Probably not with each other, though college was a crazy time for many of us.
…Have you not heard about the alien hordes?
Try Occult or Home and Garden.
Well, what is fiction, really? What is truth? What is reality? Who am I? Who are you?
No, really. Who are you?
Probably because you called her materialistic and then wrote about her—by name—on the internet?
So, why do women like the world of Jane Austen?
Is it because, having both boobs and X-chromosomes (two of each, generally), we just can’t get enough of the “structured undergarment eaten by ruffles” look? Maybe it’s to do with the steady diet of finger cakes—mmm, nutritious!—and pianoforte music! Surely we’d rather spend the day embroidering in poorly lit rooms than work hard at careers we love, and obviously, we live to obsess over the socio-romantic dynamics of our neighborhoods—or we would, if Jane didn’t use such gosh-darned big words! Golly!
You’ve shown me, good sir, that “the ideals of civilized and refined living these stories represent” must be what keeps me coming back for more of Austen’s work. Do you think I could grow up to live in a world where women can dance, draw, sing, play now-obsolete musical instruments, and spend their energy worrying about the fact of their own financial dependence? Do you really think so?
I always thought women loved Jane Austen because she tells the truth about the human experience. I thought women loved Jane Austen because her characters are timeless. I thought women loved Jane Austen because she offers insight into what it means to love and be loved, as a lover or as a friend or as a sister or as a member of the community at large. I thought women loved Jane Austen because her novels are funny and poignant and deceptive in their simplicity.
I thought men loved Jane Austen, too.
Guess I was wrong.
Dust off your hash marks, kids, and brush up on your “at” symbols; it’s time to adjust your worldview to include the letter U as both a vowel and a second-person pronoun.
This, of course, can mean only one thing:
Check us out, follow us, and watch us try to express our deep enjoyment of Austen with a donut-themed background and absolutely zero lexically legitimate words whatsoever. Plus nonsense tags and constant accessibility! What could possibly go wrong?
(This is the part where we want to say “We’re on ur phone, using ur 140 characters,” but fear that the reference is simply too ancient to even register, like it’s cuneiform or beta cassettes. Such is the dilemma of the modern Janeite. All your base are belong to us!)
See you on the airwaves, or whatever it is we call them these days.
(P.S. What? Who said that?)
Okay, not really. More like: Jane Austen hates other people on Twitter.
At its best—i.e., in her own hands—Twitter sounds like Jane’s kind of thing, the kind of program that might have suited her style and benefited her business: bits of wit delivered to a mass audience, “editors” and “publishers” and all others unaware of her genius be damned. After all, we’d have followed her: wry humor, subtle sarcasm, and bits of local gossip? Sign us up!
It’s all those other Twitterers (Tweeters?) who cause the trouble. Some people really shouldn’t be tweeting in the first place; one look at any of Austen’s novels indicates that, had the technology of the time caught up with the human instinct to share mundane life details 140 characters at a time, she would have picked the over-sharers out of the crowd without a second thought. Just think: Mrs. Bennet with an iPhone (“Waiting 4 hunky rich neighbor to show, can smell the $ now!”). Mr. Collins discovering Twitterific (“Wife encourages me to garden AGAIN, guess she likes the outdoorsy type!”). Even Catherine Morland might not, engaging heroine or no, have been the world’s most fulfilling Twitter correspondent (“Twilight OMG!!1!”). As it is, Jane had an ear for—by which I mean “mocked mercilessly and with great glee”—the indiscreet and the overly familiar; imagine how much worse things would have been for her with 24/7 wifi and a pop-up qwerty keyboard.
In terms of her work, constant microblogging would certainly muck up Jane’s stories. Not sure if one Mr. Wickham is a catch or a cad? “Let’s check his Twitter for skeevy drunk-tweets” may save poor Lydia a heap of trouble, but it ends Pride and Prejudice far too quickly, and then how will Mr. Darcy prove his boundless kindness, discretion, and general uprightness of character? Even if Wickham and Lydia—just to use an example, of course—were able to spirit off into the English night, there’s not much point in sending out the search party if we know exactly where they were and what they were doing at 10:17 and again at 10:24 and again at 10:27. (Indiscreet and over-familiar: your poster children have arrived.) No, far too much is lost in the land of Austen when characters are too easy to find and too eager to tell us what’s up.
So, Twitter: Jane Austen hates you. Not so much from some place of anti-tech “get off my lawn!”-itis as from knowing people—like, humanity—too well and from liking to tell stories where information is sometimes withheld for whole chapters at a time (WHAT?). Good thing she’s got that nice, loopy penmanship to fall back on, no?